Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week we’re celebrating books with gorgeous purple, green and/or yellow covers in honour of Mardi Gras.
Here in the UK our pre-Lent celebration is dominated by pancakes (mmmm, pancakes) – but while I’m not clear on the Mardi Gras symbolism I’m always happy for an excuse to look at great artwork. Let’s start with purple…
Every time someone asks me where to start with the Culture novels by Iain M Banks, I’m torn. While I often go with The Player of Games – it’s shorter and good perspective – Use of Weapons is probably my favourite, in which a disavowable agent is repeatedly thrown at terrible situations to try and assuage his conscience. Its tone shifts between slyly humorous Bond-style caper and pitch black angst, and its structure is at best described as opaque, but it is a great deal of fun and there’s a reason Cheradenine Zakalwe and Diziet Sma hold a special place in the hearts of Culture fans.
All Good Things is the final instalment of the Split Worlds rollercoaster by Emma Newman. I enjoyed this urban fantasy of manners for featuring Fae every bit as inhuman as they should be and for its ruthless dissection of patriarchy and politeness.
…inhuman Fae and purple apparently go together well, so last up here is Jeannette Ng’s brilliant debut Under the Pendulum Sun. What happens if you take the Brontës and a Victorian missionary manual as your inspiration and apply that to Fairyland? Gothic shenanigans and religious anguish, that’s what. Unmissable.
First up for green is The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. A fantasy romance in a world inspired by the Belle Epoque isn’t obviously my jam, but I found heroine Nina Beaulieu irresistible. Moreno-Garcia delivers a lingering glance at what our choices cost us, and the value of self-reflection and self-acceptance. Watch out for the shiny new – also green! – rerelease from Jo Fletcher Books in April.
Drowned Country is the sequel to Emily Tesh’s Silver in the Wood so erm spoilers ahoy. Here Tesh satisfies my appetite for more practical folklore with Mrs Silver and expands her magical world with vampires in Whitby and faeries in Doggerland. Our woodland disaster gays are disasters, Bramble is glorious and the two novellas are a perfect slice of magical romance.
Sticking with sequels, green is for The Poison Song, the explosive finale of the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Willliams. This is one of my favourite series for putting an unabashedly fantasy tale into a horror-soaked setting with SFnal context, and for the characters at its heart. While I adore rebellious fire-witch Noon and well-dressed Tor the emo, my faves will always be Vintage de Grazon – an Indiana Jones-style fantasy archaeologist for crying out loud – and unabashed villain Hestillion, who is remarkable for looking at every option on any table and always picking the worst. Original, devastating, and just so much fun.
My yellow covers aren’t as numerous or as entirely yellow as my purple and green, but gosh it makes a good accent colour. Let’s start with a 90s classic: Jeff Noon’s Vurt, a psychedelic dystopia in which a small gang hunt rain-soaked Manchester for a mythical drug-feather (Curious Yellow) that may help them rescue Scribble’s lost sister from the mirror world of Vurt. Expect dog-hippy hybrids, shadow people and aching loss – and that’s in the real world. I’ve still never read anything quite like it.
The Black God’s Drums is P Djèlí Clark’s thumpingly good steampunk novella of a goddess-haunted street urchin and a one-legged lesbian airship captain fighting the Confederacy in a distinctly alternative history. I loved as much for its world building as its characters – although it was just as hard to resist its swashbuckling and orishas. One that lingered long after I put it down.
Finally for yellow is new fave Fireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard’s latest novella tackling abusive relationships between people and countries. Imperial expansion, colonial fuckery and the fraught relationships between parents and children are all under the microscope here, mirrored and contrasted in the bonds between quiet princess Thanh and two very different women.
I’ll close this week with a birthday book that is near the top of my TBR that manages to involve purple, green and yellow all at the same time! Winter’s Orbit is getting stacks of good reviews, promising political space opera, a murder mystery and all the feelings as two men try to negotiate an arranged marriage that holds the empire together. Can’t wait!
Will you be eating pancakes today?